Millennials are hitting middle age. Here's what they want Gen Z to know.

In a society that lauds youth and beauty above much else, especially where women are concerned, ageing is something that makes many of us uncomfortable. We’re told the pretty are privileged and women of a certain age become invisible. So, understandably, we worry. About our place in this culture when the attributes deemed most desirable start to diminish, about our value thereafter. Some of us hold on to our youth for dear life, conditioned to believe we will age at our own peril, convincing ourselves it’s the highlight reel of our lives.

I read a beautifully written book recently, Mistakes and Other Lovers by Amy Lovat, which reminded me about the realities of being young. This book so accurately captures that exquisitely brutal period of your early twenties when you don’t know who you are or what you want. Where you’re in the thick of making the messy mistakes that later become your biggest life lessons. Reading this book made me realise how glad I am to be done with that stage of life.

Seriously, you couldn’t pay me to go back.

And sure, there are obviously parts to getting older that aren’t so great: the aching lower back (why is it always sore though?), the fine lines and receding gums and the weight of mounting responsibilities. I’m probably not selling it well, but honestly, I’m happier now at 41 than I ever was at 21.

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Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone. People develop and mature differently, and have different life experiences that shape them along the way. For me though, like protagonist El in Mistakes and Other Lovers, I was utterly lost in my early twenties. Completing a uni course I wasn’t sure about, no idea what to do next. I was free but adrift.  

At 31, I became a mother, which was one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life, but I lost myself again in the early years of motherhood. It felt like I’d moved into the background of my life as my children and their needs naturally came to the fore.  

Cliched as it sounds, I feel like I’m finding myself again in my forties. I know myself better, I’m clear on what my values and priorities are, what is for me and what definitely is not. Understanding this makes life much easier to navigate than it was when I was younger. I also love the stability in my life now. Not to say I’ve got it all figured out by any means, but as the saying goes with experience comes wisdom, or perspective at least. 

Ageing is a privilege, but many parts of it are also a pleasure. There are so many wonderful things about getting older that I wish would get more airtime. Maybe then we wouldn’t look at ageing as something to recoil from but something, not necessarily to run to, but to walk towards largely unfazed. It’s coming for each of us, after all. 

With that in mind, I reached out to 22 women aged forty-plus to find out what they most enjoy about getting older. 


Here’s what they said:

1. “Giving less sh*ts about what other people think. The more years, the less sh*ts!”  - Erin, 41.

2. “You focus more on what you really want to do and less about what others want you to do.” - Marie, 46.

3. “Not people-pleasing anymore or worrying too much about what others think. Being so much more confident.” - Monica, 42.

4. “Wisdom. And knowing at long last what that actually means!” - Melinda, 50.

5. “Clarity on what is important to me, strong and valuable long-term friendships, better income, increased self-confidence and stability. A better sense of self and awareness of your strengths/weaknesses and where you need to focus on for continual improvement from an emotional and mental perspective.” - Sandra, 41.

6. “I’m more comfortable in my skin, I don’t really give us a toss anymore. I’ve also figured out now that long lunches beat late nights out, flat shoes only, and I LOVE train travel: A booked seat and a buffet cart - so good!” - Clare, 41.

7. “I’ve finally stopped pegging myself against everyone else and I have a wealth of experience to draw from when it comes to making big life decisions.” - Renee, 45.

8. “Being okay with the fact my old jeans don't fit me anymore. No one else really cares, why should I?” - Anon, 42.

9. “Going out for dinner at the earliest seating and being home by 8pm! Plus, saying no to social events and not feeling guilty about it.”- Linzy, 50.

10. “I like being able to really enjoy just one (or two) glasses of champagne or wine when I go out and enjoying it as opposed to buying the cheapest booze in big quantities. I also like having more disposable income to buy the better face creams and lipstick brands. And I really like appreciating nature and what it does for my mental and physical health. I had no sense of that in my 20s and now a good bush walk or swim in the sea is the best thing ever!" - Laura, 42. 


11. “Having more than $200 in my savings account. It got dicey in my 20s for a while!" - Anon, 47.

12. “The older you get the more you realise you don’t know. When you’re young you think you know everything and with age, you realise everyone has different knowledge and perspectives. Also, exercising and eating well to feel good and strong instead of skinny.” - Kathryn, 41.

13. “Not having to worry about people pleasing and being comfortable in my own skin.” - Sue, 71.

14. “You're supposed to not care how you look... I'm still waiting for that feeling. BUT there is an air of 'I don't give a f**k, I can do what I want, I'm 40!' It's a weird dynamic. Also, CPAP machines are awesome. It's my new cocaine!” - Anon, 42.

15. “I really don’t mind if people don’t like me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay.” - Jane, 49.

16. “Increased confidence and emotionally more comfortable to be true to myself and my family and walk our own path. Feeling more set up in life and choosing how we live our lives and what we spend our time on. A much better work/life balance too. More at peace and content now having my own family unit (partner and kids) and making plans for the four of us.” - Jessica, 40. 


17. “Not giving a s**t anymore about fakeries – happy with who,where and how I exist.” - Sonya, 44. 

18. “Knowing that as you get older, and the kids grow up and need less of your time, you have more time to pour into new and old friendships.” - Anon, 56.

19. “Falling back in love with things I used to love but without the added pressure. Like boxing: for a while, I was training to win matches and it caused so much stress and anxiety. Now I'm into it just because it makes my heart happy.” - Lizza, 41.

 20. "The best thing is grandchildren. I married young at 21, and my hubby and I have grown together as we’ve aged. I appreciate what both of us can do alone and together. I had my first child at 23 and thought I knew nothing. Now, as a grandparent, I realise how good a job I did. All of those moments of mum doubt when I was younger were so not worth it. I got into gym workouts 14 years ago. I love that my body is strong and can do so many things now that I probably couldn’t before. I also love that I can be whacky and the kids are no longer embarrassed by me.” - Lee, late 50s.

 21.“Not caring what people think.”- Anna, 43.

 22. “Accepting myself more. Finding out I’m stronger than I ever knew.” - Lee, 43.

Emily McGrorey is a freelance writer, full-time reader, part-time procrastinator, and aspiring author. She lives on Awabakal Land/Newcastle. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature Image: Supplied/ Canva.

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